Sunday, February 22, 2015

Family Engagement: What's in it for Them?

There are three types of family engagement we as educators can engage in on a regular basis. They are Family Program Engagement, Family Classroom Engagement, Family Support and Training. Childcare Centers and Schools need to participate in all three in order to have a robust engagement program.

We in education really do want parents to engage yet, we need to give parents a reason to engage in such pursuits. Contrary to most educators opinions, parents are not going to become involved in school activities because their children are. Educator's need to take what is in it for the parents point of view. People get involved in things because they want power, prestige, accolades, self-satisfaction or peer pressure. The goal is to help parents to find their own reasons to engage.

The average parent works more than 40 hours a week. They have a house to clean, groceries to buy, family to visit and see to, a spouse who needs attention, children to care for, cars to attend to, etc.Asking them to engage in the school environment can not simply be an ought to when you have time; it needs to be a way to meet a particular need. Childcare Centers and Schools need to provide a way for parents to see and want to meet this need.

Program Engagement-This particular form of engagement will meet the needs of those who will be seeking power, prestige, and accolades. Being in a decision-making role gives people a chance to have some kind of control over what is happening in the center or school.

Classroom Engagement-This form of engagement can be enticing to those who want accolades, self-satisfaction and a bit of peer pressure. If a teacher asks all parents to engage in some sort of activity that year and provides a variety of options parents feel important. Creating a bulletin board which provide pictures of parents involved in such activities in the hallway gives those who participate accolades. It also provides a bit of peer pressure to find their picture is not included. Overall, it will give parents a sense of self-satisfaction that their time spent in the classroom has made a difference.

Family Support/Traaining-every family wants to ensure they are doing well in caring for their children. Providing parent supports such as classes, articles, and discussion groups can help empower parents to do a better job. Make these sessions about empowerment and support. Make titles of sessions about the motivators mentioned above. Family Empowerment Helping your child Thrive, PTA Series Parental Power in the School and Classroom, How to help your Child Succeed in Life, How to Engage and Support your Teen. These sample titles all in one way or another speak to the motives of what is in it for me parents need to engage.

Over the years I have seen a variety of surveys designed to get information from parents. I suggest you create a five question survey for each type of engagement and use them at least twice a year. You want to be careful to get all the information you need while not overwhelming your parents. One idea is to get a great item to display in front of the office. A classroom game, a new set of  books, or a video. Then make a contest. The classroom which gains the most surveys wins the prize. Again this supports the what is in it for me. Parents want their child to win the prize.

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